Mosaic knitting was invented by Barbara Walker in the 1960's and here we are, 60 years later, still obsessing over the effect of this mesmerizing style of knitting. It is a subset of slip stitch knitting but has its own characteristics, or rules you may say, in order to define and separate it from the broader category of slip stitch.
Let's go over some of these differences:
First, mosaic is always worked with two colors, which are normally high-contrast colors. The broader umbrella of slip stitch knitting may involve one, two or three or more colors.
In mosaic knitting, only one color will be worked at a time, over two rows. All color changes are done at the beginning of rows or rounds but never involve working with more than one color across a row or round.
All stitches on are slipped purlwise unlike slip stitch knitting which may slip stitches knitwise or purlwise.
Mosaic stitches are slipped on right side rows with the yarn always held to the back and slipped on wrong side rows with the yarn always held to the front. This keeps the horizontal strand to the back of the work. In slip stich knitting, this is not necessarily the case.
Mosaic patterns are geometric and can be complex or simple, with longer multiples and repeats of a pattern. Slip stitch knitting uses smaller, simpler motifs that repeat frequently.
One row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting.
Now that you know the parameters, let's put them into practice and see how it's worked:
One color is worked across two rows, usually in Stockinette or Garter stitch, then a contrasting color is slipped purlwise over the same two rows. It is then reversed with the contrasting color worked over two rows and the original color slipped over the same two rows.
Each horizontal row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting and each row is usually numbered with an even number on the left and an odd row number on the right. You read first from right to left for the right side (odd numbered) rows, then from left to right for the wrong side (even numbered) rows.
The first and last squares of each row tell you which stitches to work.
When you begin a row, one color is dropped and the other is picked up from underneath.
The wrong side rows look exactly the same as the right side rows and most knitters do not refer to the chart when working the wrong side rows, they just read the knitting on the needles. This means less time paying attention to a chart. If you're working on a right side row for example, and you are working all of the dark stitches and slipping all of the light stitches, then when you turn your work, you will work back across the wrong side row doing the same thing, working the dark stitches and slipping the light stitches. This allows one color to travel to the end of a row and back.
Mosaic charts will come with their own set of notes. In the chart below, the notes that explain how to work the chart are listed here:
On RS rows that begin with a dark square, you'll knit dark stitches and slip light stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On RS rows that begin with a light square, you'll knit light stitches and slip dark stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On WS rows, slip all slipped stitches purlwise with yarn in front; knit all dark stitches, purl all light stitches.
On Row 1 for example, you'll begin at the right. The first square is dark, so you'll pick up the dark yarn and work with only that color. This is how Row 1 will be worked:
K11, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k10. On RS rows, stitches are always slipped purlwise with yarn in back.
Row 2 is worked by: K10, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k11. You're knitting the stitches that you knit and slipping the stitches you slipped on Row 1.
This produces the mosaic patterning seen in the Blackwater Mosaic Pullover. It's definitely not as hard as it may seem. It moves along quite quickly since you're slipping so many stitches. Once you remember that the color shown in the first stitch of each row is the color that you'll use for the next 2 rows, it's a fun way to knit.
Another plus is that tension is usually not as a big of an issue as it can be with stranded work. If you'll notice in the chart above, you only slip one stitch at a time. You may knit 10 stitches straight, but are only slipping one stitch. Just remember when you knit your next stitch following a slipped stitch, not to pull it tight. Let it rest across the slipped stitch with a bit of room.
Since you are slipping stitches over two rows (for example slipping all light stitches across the right side row, then slipping those same light stitches on the wrong side row) the fabric will become compressed. There will be more rows per inch than in plain stockinette. To prevent a distorted image, you'll often find a combination of Stockinette and Garter used in mosaic knitting. This produces a nice looking, deeply textured fabric that lies flat.
I really encourage you to not overthink mosaic too much. Just pick up your needles and yarn, and jump right in. Read the notes that accompany a chart. And just start. You'll find that it all makes sense after you work a couple of rows. What I love about mosaic charts is that they look just like my knitting, so if I'm not sure of which row I should be working next, I just look at what I've knit so far and compare it to the chart.
Knowing the differences will help you identify which patterns are truly mosaic. I hope you try mosaic knitting or if you're a fan already, that this helps to shed some light onto how mosaic knitting is defined.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Slip Stitch Knitting Redux.” Cast On Aug – Oct 2014.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Don’t Confuse Mosaic Knitting with Color Slip Stitch Knitting – They Are Different.” <http://whitehorsedesigns.blogspot.com/ 2014/09/dont-confuse-mosaic-knitting-with-color.html>.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.
Walker, Barbara. Charted Knitting Designs. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972.
Walker, Barbara. A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Pittsville, WI: Schoolhouse Press, 2012.
When you're working brioche in blocks of color, like in Eastport Pullover, you'll need to connect your yarns in the back of your work intarsia style when working blocks that are side by side. There are SO MANY types of brioche stitches out there. The Eastport Pullover uses a basic brioche rib based on an even number of stitches with each color block containing the same number stitches. The same row is worked on both right and wrong side rows.
or continue reading for a silent experience:
If you're working two different blocks of color from the very beginning, begin by casting on with the first color. Push those stitches to the side then cast on in the next color. The two colors will not be connected at this point.
Turn and work the first set-up row in brioche, across all of the stitches in the first color. Holding the working yarn secure in your left hand, use your right fingers to pick up the next color of yarn from underneath. Work to the end of the row in the second color.
Next row (right side) and all right side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. (First meaning the first color that you start working with in any given row.) When you reach the join, take your yarn to the back of the work drop the first color, pick up the next color from underneath, bring the next colored yarn forward again and continue working in brioche to the end of the row in the next color.
Next row (wrong side) and all wrong side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. Bring your yarn forward so it lies in the front of your work (which is the wrong side), drop it, pick up the next color from underneath, then work the next set of stitches in the new color.
By dropping the first color and picking up the second color from underneath, you'll avoid any holes or gaps, and the yarns will connect the two sections. They will form an even and neat pattern up the wrong side of the fabric. Keep your tension uniform. You don't want saggy loops at the join. Strive to maintain the same tension when you work the last stitch of one color and the first stitch of the next color as you've used in the rest of the garment. To err on the tighter side is better than working these too loosely.
Always keep your color changes to the wrong side of the fabric. On right side rows, take the yarn to the back, drop the old and pick up the new, then bring the yarn back to the front again to continue working in brioche with the new color. On wrong side rows, drop the old yarn and pick up the new one in the front of your work to keep the colored seam on the wrong side of the fabric.
One more tip on the brioche rib stitch used in Eastport Pullover, when you're starting your very first stitch and it's a yf type of a stitch, place your needle tip under the yarn, then start to work. You can't really pull the yarn forward since it is where it is. The only thing that moves when starting a row is the needle, so just slip your needle tip under the yarn, then start knitting.
I hope you enjoy adding blocks of color to your brioche knitting. It's a dramatic and fun way to work brioche and it's a great option when you're not ready to work brioche in 2 colors simultaneously.
I'm so excited to be teaming up with FACES Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore on Thursday, February 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm to bring you lovely knitters a presentation class on Picking up Stitches!
Learn how to pick up stitches along a horizontal, vertical and diagonal edge, find the pick up ratio and discover tips to create a professional join.
This virtual, online presentation is sponsored and hosted by FACES Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore.
Tickets are $15 ($10 for FACES members) plus knitters will receive a PDF of the presentation to refer to in their next knitting project.
Join from the comfort of your home, with your knitting in hand and learn techniques to take your knitting to the next level.
Link to Eventbrite for Tickets.
+++PLUS+++ if you email your ticket confirmation page to email@example.com, before February 12th, you'll receive a discount code good for two (2) FREE patterns from my website store. (Because you'll want to put your new skills into practice right away right?)
For more information about FACES, please visit their Facebook page.
I first discovered Decrease Bind Off when I was researching bind offs for Level 3 of the Master Hand Knitting Program. I used it, wrote about its pros, cons and applications, then forgot about it. A few years later I was searching for a stretchy bind off for a lace shawl and ran across the Decrease Bind Off again. After binding off 523 stitches using this method, I became somewhat addicted to it.
What it is: Decrease Bind Off is a slightly stretchy bind off that creates a neat, tidy edge. It's a good substitute for the standard bind off, especially for those who tend to bind off too tightly. It's fast. It's easy to do.
What is isn't: Since it does not involve lifting one stitch over another, it is not tight. Tension is easier to control. It's not floppy or sloppy looking. It does not cause the edge to flare out.
Other names: K2tog Bind Off, Alternate Bind Off, Stretchy Bind Off, Twice Worked Bind Off, Russian Bind Off, Lace Bind Off, Estonian Bind Off, English Bind Off, Twisted Bind Off. As you can see by the names, it has been widely used for a long time by knitters from different regions.
How to do it: *k2tog through the back loops, slip stitch just worked back to the left needle; repeat from * to end. You're basically knitting 2 together through the back loops, returning the stitch, then knitting 2 together through the back loops again, returning the stitch, etc.
I recently used it on a regular sweater and love how it looks and behaves. It's a good one to use when binding off toe-up socks too. I hope you have a chance to try it and add it to your knitting toolbox of techniques.
Bush, Nancy. IT Knitted Lace of Estonia. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press LLC, 2008.
Sease, Cap. Cast On, Bind Off. Bothell, WA: Martingale, 2012.
Brioche is a wonderfully diverse, almost mesmerizing stitch that attracts attention for its beauty and is loved for its cozy, squishy properties. In this master class on brioche, my goal is to help you understand this style better and learn some key techniques to your brioche knitting look and behave its best.
Brioche is not one knitting stitch, but rather a category of slip stitch knitting. This class of knitting is a hybrid of 1x1 ribbing and double knitting. Brioche is also referred to as Shaker Knitting, English Rib, Shawl Stitch, and sometimes Fisherman's Rib but in the latter, the needle is inserted into the row below instead of making yarn over, which gives a similar but uneven look since you're opening up a stitch which distorts it and leaves the knitting looser.
Brioche creates a double-thick layer of fabric that is deeply texturized, warm, and spongy. The loose, fluffy stitch creates a lofty fabric. The fabric should hold its shape with no holes. When you go down a needle size or two, you are able to create a fabric that has some substance and springs back to shape when stretched. There’s nothing else in the world of knitting quite as distinct and dramatic. The ribs in basic brioche stitch are more dramatic and deeper than regular single ribbing. When worked in two colors, garments take on a deep, 3-D appearance. When the brioche ribs are stretched horizontally, a fishbone pattern emerges on each side of the rib. One of the main qualities of brioche is that ribbing, cables and colorworks are often reversible. In the case of two colors, each side will have a different dominant color which gives garments and scarves more versatility in the wardrobe.
During the process of knitting, colors are easier to work than most other forms of colorwork in knitting since only one color is being worked at a time. Many knitters trying brioche for the first time will find it easier to work with two colors since there is no confusion as to which stitch the yarn over belongs to. With syncopated colors, you can alternate from dark to light or vice versa for an interesting effect. It is truly one of the most versatile, interesting stitch patterns in knitting and can easily become addictive.
Since the fabric is extra thick, brioche is best suited for loose-fitting garments with plenty of ease. Allover brioche sweaters are gorgeous with the right weight of yarn and ease. When the look of brioche is desired, but ease and fit of sweaters is a concern, brioche can be combined with other stitches by working brioche panels into garments with less textured stitches. Capes, coats and hats are ideal as they benefit from the double layer and extra warmth. Cowls, scarves and baby blankets are great projects due to the reversible fabric.
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS & SOLUTIONS
Brioche will stretch a great deal, but there are ways to control this. Before you start knitting, select an untreated wool which sticks together and holds its shape better silky, slinky blends. Avoid heavy yarns like cotton and fibers that hang with gravity like alpaca and yak which really pull the already stretchy fabric downwards. You want to work with a light, airy, elastic yarn like wool. If you can find a woolen spun yarn, even better. Yarns that are woolen spun, as opposed to worsted spun, will be loftier and lighter which helps counter the effect of the extra yarn and weight. Divide the grams by yardage on the ball bands to find the weight per yard to compare yarns. Beyond yarn selection, to control the stretch you must use a needle several sizes smaller than you normally would for the weight of yarn you’ve selected. Brioche knitted with too large of needles will not spring back into shape, will have holes, look limp and misshaped. You will also need to cast on with a larger needle to prevent the cast on edge from being too tight. Use selvedge stitches to create a firm, neat edge. Lastly, for stability at the shoulder seams, you’ll want to bind off then seam since this is one bind off area that doesn’t need to match the give and stretch created by the brioche stitch.
Brioche uses 50-100% as much yarn as Stockinette so you’ll need to buy more yarn. Think about the total yardage needed before deciding on a yarn. Brioche takes more time to knit than other stitch patterns since each row is worked twice so don’t embark on a brioche project when you’re short on time.
The double thickness of brioche adds bulk to garments so they must have lots of ease. Since the fabric is extra thick, you want to allow more ease than normal when deciding on which size to make, so the garment still hangs freely instead of pulling tight against your skin. Consider the circumference of the inside of the sweater which will be tighter than the outside. Since sizes listed in patterns will be for the outside circumference, you will want to aim for a finished sweater size that is at least 4” larger than the actual circumference of your chest.
The stitch count of rows can change by mistake. If you’re working an even number of stitches without a selvedge stitch, the number of stitches can increase at the end of each row unless the last stitch and its yarn over are always worked together. If you’re working an odd number of stitches without a selvedge, the number of stitches can decrease at the end of each row unless you hold the yarn over in place as you turn the work so it doesn’t pop off. You can flip this last stitch around and place it half hitch style on the needle to better hold it in place. When starting out, take a stitch count at the end of every row until you’re confident.
Pieces made with selvedge stitches that are knitted or purled every row will have wavy edges since brioche uses more rows per inch than other stitch patterns. To solve this, always slip the selvedge stitch at the beginning of every row or with two color knitting, work the first and last stitch of every main color row and slip the first and last stitch of every contrasting color row.
Tension can be an issue. When you are on the brk or knitting row, since you’re knitting a stitch with the yarn held in the front, a yarn over forms automatically. When you knit the next st, it pulls the yarn tighter which can make the knit stitches smaller. When you are on the brp or purl row, you are taking the yarn from the front, over the needle and around the tip to the front again, then working the purl stitch. Since you have a yarn over lying on top of the needle, the tendency is not to tug when making the purl stitch, therefore the purl stitch can be a little looser. The best way to even out your tension is to be mindful of what’s happening and strive to create your knit and purl stitches with the same tension. This may mean loosening up the knit stitch a bit and giving a slight tug on the purl stitch.
There are many ways of working brioche. Some patterns cast on an even number of stitches, some cast on an odd number. Some use selvedges, some do not. Some begin with a brk and some with a brp. Some use one set up row and some use two. If you think of brioche as a category of double knitting/slipped stitches where the yarn is carried over, instead of in front or behind the work, you will begin to understand why there are so many variables. This is not one stitch with one way of working it. If you look at four books on how to work the 1x1 rib in two colors, you’ll probably see four different ways of working it. And they are all right. Brioche is fabulous in that it gives the creativity and flexibility to do what you want, within some parameters.
Some of these common rules, which must be present in all stitch patterns classified as brioche are:
When measuring gauge, brioche will have fewer stitches and more rows than Stockinette. When counting stitches for your gauge swatch, count the slipped stitch and its yarn over as one stitch. When counting rows, count what you see, so each knit stitch running up a column is one row.
When working in the round, you’ll work two rounds for every visible round.
When blocking, you’ve got more yarn soaking in the water than you normally would. Squeeze out a much water as possible, carefully support it from the bottom and remove it from the basin. Press out as much water as you can between thick towels. Reshape and let it dry flat.
Terminology does vary with brioche. Nancy Marchant created the abbreviations brk for brioche knit which basically means to knit the next stitch with its yarn over, and brp for brioche purl which means to purl the next stitch with its yarn over. Prior to brk and brp, patterns simply said to k1 or p1 and when you work one brioche stitch, you’re always knitting or purling the next stitch together with its yarn over. It’s also written as k2tog or p2tog, which means to knit or purl the next stitch together with its yarn over. You may see this written as k1, k2tog or brk, and p1, p2tog or brp. The reason for brk and brp, is that when working on a garment there are times when you are working a decrease on a non-brioche part so you can see where k2tog can be confusing. Sometimes it means to knit the next stitch with its yarn over and sometimes it means to decrease 2 stitches to 1. And if you have selvedge edges, sometimes you really are just knitting 1 stitch when you see k1, but sometimes it means to knit the stitch with its yarn over. Therefore, using Marchant’s abbreviations of brk and brp help to clarify.
Charting is different in that each row is worked twice. Some of the most common abbreviations include:
brk – knit the st slipped in the previous row tog with its yo.
brp – purl the st slipped in the previous row tog with its yo.
yo – bring yarn over the needle.
yf – bring yarn forward, under the needle tip. Do not form a yo.
yof – a combination of the yo and yf.
yb – bring yarn to the back.
sl – slip st purlwise.
HOW TO WORK
Single Color Plain Brioche Stitch (without selvedge) [Photo 1]:
CO an even number of sts.
Set up Row: *Yf, sl1, yo, k1; rep from * to end.
Row 1: *Yf, sl1, yo, brk; rep from * to end.
Repeat Row 1.
A good pattern for try out Two Color Brioche Stitch (including selvedge) [Photo 2] is the Rainstorm Scarf pattern.
Decreases [Photo 3] allow two knit columns in the ribbing to become one. When you decrease three stitches to one, you eliminate one knit column and one purl column, which maintains the 1x1 ribbing after the decrease. With increases and decreases, it’s easier to start with row 1 or row 1(a).
To make a Left Leaning Decrease (brsssk or sometimes written as sssbrk): On the RS, work up to the st that is to be decreased. This is usually a slipped st with its yo. Slip the next 3 sts knitwise one at a time to the RH needle. Since you always treat the stitch and its yo as 1 st, you will slip the knit st and its yo, the purl st, and the next knit st and its yo, which is 5 strands on the needle. Slip all 3 sts (5 strands) back to the LH needle to reorient the sts then knit all 3 tog through the back loops. 2 sts dec’d.
To make a Right Leaning Decrease (brk3tog): On the RS, work up to the knit column before the knit column that you want to slant. Insert RH needle knitwise from left to right one at a time into the next 3 sts (the knit st, its yo, the purl st, and the next knit st and its yo). Knit the 3 stitches (5 strands) together. 2 sts dec’d.
Non Directional Increases [Photo 4] are most commonly made by using a 1-3 and 1-5 increase. When you increase you take a knit column and branch it into one knit column, one purl column and one knit column for a 1-3 increase and into one knit column, one purl column, one knit column, one purl column and one knit column for a 1-5 increase. This keeps the pattern balanced.
To make a 1-3 increase (brkyobrk): On the RS, work up to the st that is to be increased. This is usually a slipped st with its yo. Treating the st and its yo as one, (brk, yo, brk) into the st/yo. When working with 2 colors, after finishing this row, slide work to the other side of the needle and work the next color. When you get to the 3 sts that you increased, continue in pattern with sl1 (first st), yo, purl middle st, yo, sl1 (third st) yo, and cont.
To make a 1-5 increase (brkyobrkyobrk), work the same as above but brk, yo, brk, yo, brk into the st/yo to create 5 sts.
CAST ONS AND BIND OFFS
The best cast ons are those that stretch. You’ll want a stable edge for scarves and open edges of garments, but the cast on cannot interfere with the tension of the garment. Since brioche is a loose, spongy stitch, you want a cast on with a bit of give to it. Use larger needles to cast on than the rest of the piece.
For brioche worked in one color, Italian Cast On (also known as Two-Strand Tubular CO, Kitchener Rib CO, Invisible Cast On, Tubular Cast On, KP Case On, 1x1 Rib Cast On, Alternating Cast On) is a favorite, as evidenced by its many names used in different regions.
For brioche worked in 2 colors: Two-Color Italian Cast On (a/k/a Two-Strand Tubular Cast On, and Tubular Two-Color Cast on) allows you to cast on with both colors, maintains the different colored ribs all the way through to the end of the piece, and creates an invisible edge.
The best bind offs are those that stretch. Keep your tension loose while binding off. For shoulders that will be seamed, bind off these tightly to provide stability here and prevent too much stretch at the seam.
For brioche worked in one color: Tubular Bind Off, Kitchener Bind Off, (a/k/a Italian Bind Off, Invisible Weave Off), Kitchener Rib Bind off (a/k/a/ Invisible Ribbed Bind Off, K1P1 Bind Off, K1P1 Rib Bind Off), Suspended Bind Off (a/k/a Elastic Bind Off) when you want a straight edge, Stretchy Bind Off (good for 1x1 ribbings). Since the Italian Bind Off is a favorite for 1x1 ribbing, it makes sense that it’s also a favorite choice for binding off in simple brioche stitch. When binding off be sure to match the tension of the preceding rows and do not snug up the yarn tightly as you go.
For brioche worked in two colors: Simple Two-Color Bind Off is fast and similar to regular bind off but gives a pretty chain of alternating colors resting on the top of the bind off edge, that match the columns of colored stitches below.
BEYOND BASIC BRIOCHE
Thinking of brioche as its own category of stitches, allows you to see how many brioche patterns can exist. Taking the brioche principles and applying them to cables, increases, decreases, ribbing, colorwork, etc. opens up many different types of stitch patterns. Besides the striking basic brioche, double brioche, honeycomb brioche, and waffle brioche are just some of the stitch patterns that proudly lie under the brioche category.
Brioche can easily become addictive. Understanding its’ qualities, suitable garments, and potential pitfalls to avoid will increase your enjoyment when working brioche and lead to better finished projects. Since it can be worked successfully with any weight of yarn, using one, two or more colors either in contrast with one another or monochromatic, it’s easy to find yarn in your stash to begin swatching. Once you get into a rhythm, you’ll find that it is a stitch that can be committed to memory and can be worked without total concentration.
I hope you enjoy the fascinating world of brioche from the fundamentals, to the exciting knitting process and the dramatic finished projects.
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Editors of Vogue. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2018.
Forte, Mary. “Stitch Anatomy – Brioche Lesson.” Cast On Feb-Apr 2011.
Marchant, Nancy. Knitting Brioche. Cincinnati, OH: North Light Books, 2009.
Sease, Cap. Cast On, Bind Off. Bothell, WA: Martingale, 2012.
Tarasovich-Clark, Mercedes. Brioche Chic. Fort Collins, CO: Interweave. 2014.
Temple, Trudianne. “Brioche.” Cast On Nov 2014-Jan 2015.
Walker, Barbara. A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1968.
If you've ever noticed a sloppy column of stitches after your cables, those are ladders. Besides being unattractive, they can cause problems with your knitting including gauge. I was so honored to write the technical article in Interweave Knits Winter 20/21 issue, "Controlling Ladders When Working Cables." If you have your issue of the magazine, look for the article (and enjoy the different gothic patterns in this issue).
Covid has left many knitters relying on the internet to pick out yarn for their next project. Many local yarn shops that are not currently open to the public due to the pandemic, do have websites where you can order yarn for curbside pick up or delivery. If you are buying a yarn you know and love, the process can be convenient. If you're picking out colors for Fair Isle or stranded work, it can be a nightmare.
I'm here to share with you a great way to make sure the colors you select have sufficient contrast. Contrast in colors refers to difference in light between the foreground and background, or in the case of knitting, the pattern and the background. Fair Isle bands are either light on dark, meaning a light colored pattern on a dark background; or dark on light meaning a dark pattern on a light background.
1. If you're looking at a website from your phone, pick out the yarns you think you want, then take a screen shot of each one.
2. Using an app like LAYOUT, you can pull the pictures you just took into the app so you can see them in a group, or side by side. This will create one picture of all of the screen shots.
3. Click on the photo, hit EDIT, then go to filters (on an iPhone it's the three circles that overlap) and apply a black and white filter. This strips away all of the colors and allows you to look at just the contrast. You want sufficient contrast between the colors so that the pattern looks attractive to the eye.
Yarns that are too close in value, without enough contrast will not look their best. In Fair Isle, you should be able to see your pattern in black and white. If the bands look like a completely white band or completely black band, then the colors won't work. Some colors are deeper than others and more saturated and that's good. Not all colors need to have the same intensity, but you should be able to tell them apart.
This also allows you to group your colors into light or dark. In the Milan Hill Mitts, 4 colors are used: 2 dark colors and 2 light colors. Each band uses only 2 colors and it features either a light on dark pattern or dark on light. The photo to the left is the mitt and to the right is the same mitt with a black and white filter applied.
You'll notice on the right picture, that each of the pattern yarns can be seen, some stronger than others, but they can be seen. By looking at your colors in black and white, you can more easily match them up to a pattern's color key.
In the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts below, the yarns used are Morehouse Farm Merino 2-ply sport weight in the following colors:
Bright/darker blue is Pacific (color A) dark
Oatmeal (color B) light
Chocolate (color C) dark
Aqua (color D) light
When you hold Oatmeal and Aqua next to each other and take a picture, they come out looking exactly the same, like two skeins of white yarn. So you can use these, just not together in one band.
If you are in a yarn shop, gather your yarns and take a picture of them side by side. Apply the filter and see how it looks! Hopefully this will help you make sharp color choices, so when your yarn arrives in the mail it's perfectly contrasting for your next Fair Isle Project. To find out more about the Milan Hill Fingerless Mitts, click on this link. <Milan Hill Mitts>
Someone wants to learn to knit. They pick out a yarn, needles and an easy pattern for a scarf. They start to knit, they get the hang of it, now it’s getting easier, then it’s pushed aside because it’s boring. So much for knitting.
Has this happened to you or someone you know? Do you have works in progress that are sitting aside, waiting to be finished? I’ve been knitting my whole life, and I have to tell you, that it’s like root canal for me to knit a stockinette sweater. Whether you crave challenges or have a short attention span, it’s important to understand what type of knitter you are.
I asked a very social knitter friend recently if she wanted to knit a sample for me and she asked “It isn’t going to be one of those patterns where I have to look at the chart is it?”
I took a step back and thought about her personality. She knits in circles of friends and talks. She knits with one eye on her toddler and jumps up every 10 minutes to do something. She knits beautiful work but her knitting style is different from mine. She wants to come back to her knitting and squeeze in another 10 minutes of knitting without having to think about where she is in the pattern.
I don’t knit like that. I knit for long stretches at a time. I love to knit in the evenings when watching a movie (a good British murder movie even better). I don’t need to keep my eyes peeled to the screen. I can glance from TV to chart and understand both the movie and my knitting. It quiets that fidgety feeling that I get when sitting still. My hands are moving, my mind is working, and I’m engrossed in a good plot (hopefully). When I struggle, is when I'm working the same stitch over and over again, without any diversions. No shaping, no color change, no stitch change, just monotony.
There is a type of knitting for everyone and every scenario. There are times when you need a smaller project, for traveling for example. But it’s helpful to think about what type of experience the knitting project is going to provide before you decide.
I’ve been giving the psychology of knitting a lot of thought lately. I designed St. Kilda with this in mind. I put the exciting, fun, Fair Isle color work at the beginning, the hem, then when the fun part was over the sweater transitions to Stockinette so you can finish it up quickly before moving on the Fair Isle cuffs of the sleeves.
I found great enjoyment in working this type of Jekyll and Hyde project. My next application was the Melk Abbey Cardigan. With a lacey hem (that is easily memorized), the pattern changes to a combination of cables and openwork on the body but stops midway up (because we don’t want to get bored now do we?) and switches for the rest of the body. The pattern change holds the interest of the knitter and it ends up coming together quickly.
A yarn shop owner once told me “who wants to knit a sweater that you can buy on the rack at Kohls?” I think about that all of the time! There are basic sweaters that you enjoy wearing, but you don’t want to knit them. I love my little black Stockinette cardigan. I wear it over sleeveless dresses most of the summer, but I don't have the willpower to knit it.
I’m very much a process knitter. Don’t get me wrong, the finished product has to be amazing! It has to fit into my wardrobe and be artistic, intricate and creative. But it’s that “intricate” part that is necessary in keeping me engaged through the process.
I challenge you to do a little self-analysis about your personality. Then think back to past knitting projects. Which have you enjoyed the most? Which ones are the most gratifying? Which ones are you actually getting some use out of? If you think knitting shawls is fun, but your closet has a few finished shawls folded nicely and never worn, were they really that gratifying in the end? What excites you when you knit? Put this self-awareness into action when you pick out your next knitting project and see how it goes for you. Knitting is so versatile, just like knitters. You are unique and the process that you bring to your knitting is yours alone.
“Know thyself.” Thales of Miletus
Hello! I'm Donna. I enjoy designing knitwear that is artistic, intricate and comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.